Just finished it. It’s a must read for anyone with any interest at all in the daily life of marine grunts in Quang Tri province in 1969. When you finish this book you can say you did a tour in Vietnam. You will certainly feel that way.
But there is much more than that to this story. It is about good and evil, and the difficulty and uncertainty of knowing what is good and what is evil. I still think I know the difference, but I know it’s not as easy as I thought.
Update: As of September 25, 2011 there are over 500 reviews at Amazon. 386 of them give it 5 stars.
Here is what I said about this book in a comment at Chicago Boyz:
Now everyone can have a tour of duty as a Marine grunt in Quang Tri Province in 1969, with all that entails. Jungle rot, leeches, incompetent leaders, thirst in a monsoon, man-eating tigers, death everywhere; and all that’s just for starters. Bravo company is ordered by a drunken colonel to build bunkers on a hill called Matterhorn even though it makes no sense; then they are ordered to abandon the bunkers; then the NVA takes them over, digs in and stages artillery attacks; so Bravo company is ordered to re-take Matterhorn only to be ordered to abandon it again. The battle to reclaim Matterhorn is grim. Food and water, ammo and medical supplies can’t get to Bravo company because the weather is socked in and choppers can’t fly. At one point each member of Bravo company is dying of thirst in a monsoon and is down to his last two 30-round M16 magazines. Three short bursts on full auto will empty them. They must hold their fire and engage the gooks in close quarters combat if they are to survive. Finally, a first lieutenant back at VCB (combat base) defies orders, persuades chopper pilots to risk their lives and machinery to save Bravo Company. It’s such a fine heroic moment any reader with a heart will hear the Marine Corps anthem playing in his head.
The ending marks this book in the genre of deep tragedy. Embark on this journey through 566 pages only if you are sure you are up to it. It’s a helluva ride.
Bernard Cornwell, author of the Sharp’s Rifles books, says Matterhorn is a great book. He was speaking seriously, not just giving a cover blurb.
As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I abhor the epidemic of drug abuse that seems to have swept this country and my profession over the last few decades. While it may seem a bit out of character for a libertarian conservative like me, I must wholeheartedly endorse this recent development. I know some won’t like it, but It was a necessary step In the right direction.
As reported in The Docket, the Journal of the Denver Bar Association,
As members of a highly regulated profession, lawyers must act in the utmost ethical manner at all times, even in matters beyond their professional duties. Accordingly, the Colorado Legislature recently passed a series of bills that adds more regulatory requirements for attorneys and other professionals.
House Bill 0401 addresses the substance abuse rates for attorneys, in light of recent “medical” marijuana rulings. Legislators approved mandatory drug testing for attorneys licensed in the State of Colorado. Citing the “growing trend of substance abuse” and the need for “attorneys to represent their clients, particularly in the Colorado court system, with the utmost professional care and coherency,” the measure requires that all licensed attorneys submit to random drug testing.
To get the program underway all attorneys representing clients in Colorado courts must submit to random urine tests at the courthouse where they practice. An emergency appropriation of $1 Million a year will allow for a new, part-time position in each courthouse in Colorado for an “attorney substance abuse specialist” who will be working two days per week to collect urine samples from attorneys to test for illegal drugs. In order to prevent attorneys from scheduling hearings on days when the abuse specialist is not working their 2-day schedule will be randomly changed each week by using the same courthouse software system that randomly assigns new cases to particular judges.
In order to include the large number of transactional attorneys who rarely if ever appear in court a “Professional Substance Control Office” will be established in the State Supreme Court chambers where transactional attorneys will be summoned randomly by an automated cell-phone call directing them to immediately appear for urine testing, much the same that undercover detectives in many police departments are already required to do.
Complaints are already being raised, claiming such things as invasion of privacy and that the whole idea is ridiculous. The Colorado Bar Association and the various local bars have reluctantly endorsed these new rules as an unfortunate necessity to enable the profession to continue to uphold its high standards in this climate of substance abuse and dependency
The new rules go into effect on April 1st.
There are plenty of reviews so let me just say this book is great. Just read it and you’ll thank me.
I’ll help you with a few things, though. Some of Hunter’s characters are stand-ins for real people. The real people’s stories are close but not exactly the same as those of the characters in the novel. Hunter’s fictional character Carl Hitchcock is of course real Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock. Jack Strong is Bill Ayers, Strong’s wife Mitzi is Bernardine Dohrn, Joan Flanders is Jane Fonda, and Tom Constable is Ted Turner.
There are a couple of others I haven’t figured out. I came of age in the 60’s but was not sufficiently ensconced in the counter culture to know who all the infamous players were. Once the fervor died down they were just not that memorable, anyway.
There is one review of this book you might not find if I don’t direct you to it, and it’s worth your time. Especially if you are a gun person and are familiar with Massad Ayoob.
Check out Massad Ayoob’s review of I, Sniper here.